'Joey' the ventriloquist doll : Gunner T A Hussey, 2/10 Field Regiment

Place Asia: Singapore, Changi
Accession Number RELAWM30623
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Wood; Cotton; Cardboard; Plastic; Hair; Bamboo
Maker Unknown
Place made Singapore: Changi
Date made c 1942-1945
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Wooden ventriloquist's doll dressed in a discoloured double breasted white cotton suit, made from a cut down civilian tropical suit, a partial undershirt, and a black tie made from a piece of fabric from a Chinese coolie's trousers. A collar made from a nurse's starched cuff is attached around his neck with a press stud fastener. The doll's head has been covered in red hair and a white cotton cap is nailed around the crown; the mouth is articulated with an internal metal framework. The suit, undershirt and cap are covered with autographs.

The doll's face is painted white with red lips and cheeks and blue eyes, with paint made from coloured chalks mixed with peanut oil. His hands have been left bare, but his feet are painted black to represent shoes.

History / Summary

Ventriloquist dummy called 'Joey' which belonged to QX12079 Gunner Thomas Alfred Hussey. Tom Hussey was born in Mackay, Queensland, on 7 December 1919. He was orphaned as a small boy and reared by the Salvation Army in the town. An old vaudeville ventriloquist, Malcolm McPhee, trained him in ventriloquism and Tom later joined an amateur vaudeville group known as 'The Snap Company' which performed in the townships surrounding Mackay. On 24 June 1940 the male members of the company enlisted in the AIF as a group. They were assigned to various units in the army, Tom serving with 2/10 Field Regiment. He took his ventriloquist dummy, 'Joey' with him to Malaya.

Hussey arrived in Singapore on 18 February 1941, serving as a regimental cook. In October 1941 he was detached from his unit to serve with the AIF Concert Party at Mersing. On 3 December he rejoined his regiment. He did not take part in the fighting in Malaya as he was evacuated to 13 Australian General Hospital in Singapore on 11 January 1942, a few days before the regiment first engaged the Japanese. Hussey rejoined the regiment on 13 February, two days before the Allies surrendered to the Japanese. It appears that the first 'Joey' was lost at this time and that Hussey had a second doll made in Changi. It is uncertain when he first became associated with the Changi Concert Party, a talented group of prisoners who organised and performed theatrical productions and concerts which were as popular with the Japanese administrators and guards as they were with the prisoners.

On 18 April 1943 most of the members of 2/10 Field Regiment, including Hussey, were sent to work on the Burmese end on the Burma-Thailand railway as members of F Force. A third of the men in the group died of disease, malnutrition and ill treatment before the survivors returned to Changi in December, when Hussey rejoined the Concert Party. By the end of 1944 the second 'Joey' had either been lost or had disintegrated. The wood workshop in Changi Gaol was asked to make the wooden parts for a new doll, including a head with a moveable jaw. The Australian cartoonist, George Sprod, designed the head and provided a drawing of it. Lieutenant Jack Norman 'Hugo' Hughes, of the Malay Regiment, carved the head from a single piece of wood, and used pieces of metal from a damaged 15 inch gun to articulate the jaw. Hughes's leg had earlier been amputated as a result of wounds and was one of the few survivors of the Japanese massacre of patients and staff at the Alexandra Hospital on 14 and 15 February 1942. Hussey first performed with his new 'Joey', in the Concert Party's 1944 Christmas pantomime.

Tom Hussey was in the first group of POWs to be evacuated from Singapore to Australia on 15 September 1945, on the hospital ship Manunda. The third 'Joey' accompanied him back to Australia. Hussey was transferred to 2/6 Australian General Hospital at Labuan for treatment for bronchitis, then continued his journey on HMAS Manoora. On arrival in Brisbane, on 15 October, Hussey was interviewed by the press and gave a brief dockside performance with 'Joey', before being transported to hospital. He was released soon afterwards and returned to the Mackay district. Before he was discharged in December, he was again hospitalised, with malaria. He had first contracted the disease in Malaya in 1941, and suffered from recurring bouts of it for the rest of his life. 'Joey' was displayed in the Mackay and Bundaberg districts before being donated to the War Memorial in 1947.